Falling Stars

Back-to-back is a significant factor in professional sports. It pertains to playing games on consecutive nights. When the Dallas Stars were contenders they were masters at winning both ends of back-to-backs. If the Stars miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year, the organization may want to schedule a management session entitled “How to get the magic back in back-to-backs”. For the 2011-2012 season, the Stars have come up winless 10 times in the second game of consecutive tilts, sporting a 0-8-2 record. The latest miscue saw them squandering a 2-0 third period lead in Buffalo before losing 3-2 in a shoot-out.

What is even more glaring in those 10 games is they have been outscored by a whopping 40-16. On the road, they are 0-7-1 in second games and have been outscored 33-13. Stars Coach Glen Gulutzan had originally planned on playing back-up Goalie Richard Bachman in Buffalo, but changed his mind in favor of red-hot Kari Lehtonen to stop the jinx. The move appeared to work until the late game meltdown.

The loss in Buffalo underscored the significance of putting together back-to-back wins. A win in Buffalo would have given the Stars a 4-2-0 record since the All-Star break and 5-2-0 in their last seven if you go back before the break. A win would have put them into the eighth and last playoff spot in the Western Conference and two points out of the seventh playoff spot. Instead, the shoot-out loss leaves them 3-2-1 since the break and in a tie for ninth place in the conference, and most importantly on the outside looking in for now in the playoff chase.

“You have to get on a roll, 1-1 isn’t going to cut it,” Gulutzan said before the Buffalo setback. “You can look at the standings and figure out your points and it’s not going to cut it. We have to start stringing things back-to-back. Tomorrow’s a good start. You’re not going to stay on zero forever and hopefully tomorrow we’ll put a one in that column.” That didn’t happen.

Lehtonen made some remarkable saves in the disappointing loss in Buffalo, showing no signs of an illness that had been bothering him prior to the Stars road trip.

“Leading until the last minute, we can be happy about that,” said Lehtonen, who stopped 34 shots through overtime. “But we have to be able to close these games. Two points is a lot better than one.”

The Stars have less than 10 games remaining before the February 27 trade deadline. If they don’t win at least half those games, the Stars and GM Joe Nieuwendyk may decide to become “Sellers” at the deadline and move some of the existing veterans on the squad to contenders.

Stars fans should brace themselves as this could include trading crowd favorites such as Captain Brenden Morrow and tough guy Steve Ott for younger prospects. Morrow and Ott are the perfect role players for teams looking to shore up their rosters for a playoff run.

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